Preparatory chants, stretching and encouragement of 1st Infantry Division Soldiers could be heard on and near Custer Hill Parade Field as the early morning light of July 27 slowly revealed the first day of Victory Week.
The annual event is held to honor current and former members of the 1st Inf. Div. and affiliated units, commemorate fallen Warriors and celebrate the Big Red One\'s lineage and history.
About 16,000 Soldiers from the division formed up on Custer Hill Parade Field and along Normandy Drive to kick off the first event of the week, Victory Run, a 3.6-mile route around Custer Hill.
Following the conclusion of "The Big Red One" song, sung in unison by all Soldiers present, followed directly by the playing of the Rocky Theme song by the 1st Inf. Div. Band, Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, division command sergeant major, led the way for all of the Soldiers, many of which couldn't help but smile as they jogged down the road with the strength of the "Italian Stallion" beating at their ears.
Brooks said that enthusiasm and positive energy also came from getting to run with so many fellow Soldiers.
"It's about morale. You can see how big the division is, even with some brigades deployed," Brooks said. "It's rare that a division can get together on the street ... What it symbolizes this year is that the division headquarters itself is back in the business of leading and fighting."
A part of that show of leadership came from the division headquarters staff leading the run, the first part of which had division staff running the "gauntlet" with Soldiers looking on from both sides of the street.
"Having the leadership run the gauntlet, having the leadership run through the units lined on both sides lets the Soldiers see their leaders, doing the same thing they are doing every morning, doing PT. That pumps them up," Brooks said.
Maj. Mike Goodwin, G3 Assistant Fire Support Coordinator and Victory Week coordinator, felt that the 10-minute-per-mile pace wasn't too bad, and though some Soldiers struggled, the majority gleamed with pride and kept on shouting with enthusiasm as they passed the review point near the final stretch of the run.
Some Soldiers took the chance to salute Brooks and Champagne or raise their fists in triumph as they jogged past while others took the chance to play up the Rocky Theme even further, shouting movie phrases or punching at the air.
The enthusiasm shouted from the Soldiers of the Big Red One was the very reason Goodwin felt the Victory Run was the best possible way to start off Victory Week.
"It's a great thing for people to see so many Soldiers passing by. I just think it's a great event," he said, explaining such a display of Soldiers gives a great idea of just how large the division is in manpower, adding further that half of the Soldiers are deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
"It's just a great way to start the week ... It worked out very well," Goodwin said.